By Bill Foley
Catherine Russo wasn’t swimming by herself at the Butte Family YMCA.
It just seemed that way.
The Butte High sophomore made it look easy again Saturday as she picked up a pair of individual victories at the Butte Invitational.
She won the butterfly by nearly 10 seconds, and that wasn’t even her best race.
Russo posted a personal-best time of 23.53 seconds in the 50 freestyle. Second place went to Lydia Amon of Missoula Hellgate. Amon touched in 26.08.
The butterfly, though, was the most obvious sign of Russo’s dominance.
Russo finished the butterfly in 56.82 seconds. Amon took second in 1:05.51.
“It’s my best event,” Russo said of the butterfly. “It’s not necessarily my favorite, but it’s the one I’m best at.”
The butterfly time was also close to a PR for Russo.
“It’s my best time of the season, so I’m really happy with it,” she said. “I was less than a second off my best time ever.”
Saturday was the kind of performance fans have become to expect from Russo, a likely future college swimmer who hopes to someday swim in the Olympic trials.
She said she feels pressure from those expectations that follow winning two individual state titles as a freshman. She only won two state titles, by the way, because you can’t compete in three individual events at state.
“There’s absolutely more pressure this year,” Russo said. “I know last year people knew I was a swimmer, but they didn’t necessarily how I’d place among every one. This year it’s a lot of ‘OK, you did it last year, do it again.’”
With the competition so far behind, Russo has turned to the clock for an opponent as she looks to top her freshman season.
“Last year when I went to state, I was pretty close to setting the state records,” Russo said. “My goal this year is to be able to go this year and try to beat those. That’s how I would probably top it.”
Russo has actually swam faster than the state records. Records, though, can only be set at the state meet.
In all, Russo scored 40 points for the Bulldogs. That was matched only by Bella Seagrave of Missoula Hellgate.
Russo helped the Bulldogs place in a pair of relay races Saturday. She teamed with Sidney Christie, Elise Dickerson and Nicole Hyatt to place third in the 200 medley relay.
Dickerson, Hyatt, Cynthia Trudgeon and Russo placed third in the 300 relay.
Butte High’s Anna Trudnowski, Mia Jefferson, Devin Amtmann and Trudgeon teamed to placed fourth in the 200 free relay.
Individually, Dickerson added a fifth place in the 500 freestyle race.
On the boys’ side, Butte High had some strong showings in the relays
Riley Walsh, Tervor Komm, Matt Ingersol and Zach Johnson swam to second place in the 200 freestyle relay. Ingersoll, Johnson, Walsh and Garrick Sisson took third in the 200 freestyle relay.
Komm, Sison, Brandon Quinn and Nathaniel Morin-Ferguson placed fifth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Overall, Butte High coach Lynn Shrader was pleased with all of her Bulldogs.
“There were many personal best times,” Shrader said. “The kids are swimming well and practicing hard. It is really starting to show.”
The Bulldogs hit the road to compete in the Missoula Invitational next Saturday. That is the final meet before the holiday break.
Butte High will host a meet Jan. 27 at the YMCA. The state meet is Feb. 9-10 in Great Falls.